It is almost hard to believe, but poor Beth is once again in the dark! We had a brief yet powerful electrical storm yesterday and I assume lightening took its toll! So she’s been sidelined from posting, and I presume waylaid from other practical duties. I hope she’ll be at her best again soon.
I, on the other hand, have indeed made progress! We have a tree, and although it’s sitting here bare, it’s closer to fulfilling its Christmas destiny! We even bought a little tiny tree for our granddaughters to decorate fully and completely on their own. I’m feeling festive! And thanks to the miracle of on-line shopping the house is strewn with packing boxes and by the time the weekend is over there’s a reasonable chance I’ll have most of it wrapped. My husband even insists that despite the forecast of rain we’ll have outdoor lights by Monday. It’s looking good for the home team!
I’m a little disappointed, though, that time is working against my enthusiasm and I believe it’s too late to channel my inner Martha Stewart. I had such visions of sugar cookies all decked out in royal icing, silver metallic drageés and other beautiful decorative nonpareil delights! I even bought the ingredients, but I’ll report back around Valentine’s Day and see if I do any better then!
I guess I’m glad I’m the only one disappointed that I didn’t get to the fruitcake. This is not a popular treat in my family, but I love it. I was going to make two versions–the traditional cake, dense and decadent (if you like it you use words like that) and I also planned to try my hand at a traditional Scottish Christmas cake known as the Whisky Dundee. This light crumbly cake rich with currants, raisins, cherries and Scotch whisky seemed like a good idea about a month ago.
I don’t really understand all the jokes about fruitcake, but an article in the Christian Science Monitor (Huang) notes that 47% of people who said they received a fruitcake as a gift threw it away. Regifting is high, too, with 11% giving away any fruitcake they receive. The good news for me, however, is that since it seems fruitcake remains edible for 26 years if stored in an airtight tin I could easily get an early start on next Christmas and bake the goods in January!
I have made peace with the idea that this isn’t the time to overreach. Still one family tradition will remain. I will find time to include a baking day (or at least a few hours) to make my great-grandmother Nana’s shortbread recipe. Every family has a holiday recipe or food tradition that lovingly connects the past with present, and in ours it’s Nana’s shortbread. Her little handwritten recipe card traveled with her from her home in Scotland and is lovingly preserved.
The recipe itself isn’t particularly unique. I’ve compared the ingredients to other shortbread recipes and they are all just about the same. But the difference is in the handling. My grandmother very patiently instructed me how to make the cakes the way she’d been taught by her mother. We never use a mixer, instead combining the flours, sugar and butter (lots of it!) by hand. It’s a strange contextual experience, but I learned at a young age how to work with the butter following my grandmother’s motions and working quickly to avoid over-handling and liquefying the butter.
Sophia and Karina aren’t ready for this baking project just yet, but it won’t be long before their mother and I will pass along this same Christmas baking tradition that came to me through my great-grandmother and then my grandma. Maybe this year they could sprinkle the sugar on top!
Is there a holiday baking tradition you hold sacrosanct? And by all means, do let me know how you feel about fruitcake!